by Philip-Todd Franklin
Hi-Jack had been lucky during his fight. One of the Occupation soldiers was lying upon the ground, holding on to his broken left leg, and he had been able to remove the guns from the two soldiers that were left. Standing between them, Hi-Jack began trying to taunt them with any words he knew in Japanese, which weren’t many, though they were enough to cause the two men to charge at him angrily.
Waiting until the last moment, Hi-Jack somersaulted backward, reaching out for his mace. The two men then collided, bringing both of them to the ground as Hi-Jack stood up. Swiftly he brought his mace down upon the two soldiers and pressed a button in the handle, sending a large but nonlethal charge of electricity into both men, rendering them unconscious.
Not giving either of them a second thought, Hi-Jack took off toward the large front door of the warehouse.
Captain Juno Suto crashed into the wall of the office with such force that he struck the far wall in the room and did not stand up. Hiroshi Tain looked around into the darkness of the room and, without really seeing, reached out and grabbed the soldier at his right. Quickly spinning around, he launched the poor young soldier toward the large front door.
Softly, yet with much menace in his voice, Tain spoke to the last soldier. “Son, you might as well make it easy on yourself and surrender. You don’t really think you can escape Old Glory, do you?” And a rather large grin broke out on Tain’s face as he stepped toward the soldier.
Hi-Jack picked himself up from the ground. A moment ago, he had been struck in the face by the door as a young soldier came flying out at great force, destroying the door as he went. It was obvious that he’d been flung out from within.
He took a moment to look at the soldier, wondering to himself just what had tossed the young man through the door and whose side it was on. Then he just shook his head and put it out of his mind as he stepped into the building. He couldn’t forget why he had come there.
In the building, all was dark except for Tain, whose body was now glowing in alternating stripes of red and white. Slowly he began to advance toward the lone young soldier left standing, who looked like he was going to be sick as he stared incredulously at the sight of the glowing man, mumbling loudly to himself.
Without any warning, he leaped to his left, grabbed Governor Steve Gramm by the throat, and began to quickly shout at the still-advancing Tain. “You!” he cried in Japanese, his voice full of terror. “Whatever you are, come no closer, or this bag of meat dies right here! You are going to let me leave here and board one of the boats right now. Do you hear me?”
As Tain continued to advance, he spoke to the young soldier, “Son, no one else is going to die here, and I’m afraid I can’t let you leave.” The young soldier only tightened his grip upon the governor’s throat and began to drag him along as he backed toward the door.
Upon the office floor several feet away, the captain came to and began listening to the confrontation. As he slowly picked himself up he thought, I have no desire to confront that ancestral traitor at this time, yet how can I escape without doing so?
Crawling toward what had formerly been a large glass window between the two rooms, Captain Suto tried looking into the other room, but he could only see within the all-encompassing darkness one brightly shining figure. He could hear the confrontation between Tain and the young soldier, and he knew the battle was already lost. Slowly he made his way to the door of the office and gently opened it, listening with a patience that had once given him the rank he now held.
Just outside the door was Macy Johnson and her two kids, all so enraptured by the battle before them that none noticed the office door open, nor the pair of hands that slowly reached for young Casey.
Captain Suto swiftly wrapped his hands around the young girl, then roughly pulled her back toward himself, keeping her silent. With this hostage I will make my escape, he thought, and at a later time I will have my revenge upon Tain.
Standing up within the darkened room, the captain began to inch his way along the walls, smiling as he dragged his hostage with him, unseen by all the others. As long as there are no people between me and the door, I will be victorious, Suto thought, even as young Casey Johnson tried to struggle out of his grip, but to no avail.
As Hi-Jack walked through the building from the entrance, the first thing he noticed was how dark it was, and all he could see was the glowing being advancing upon the soldier who was now slowly making his way toward the door. Not really paying much attention, he moved into the room and slid just out of the way to keep an eye on the battle as he tried to locate Macy and the kids.
As he passed the young soldier, he noticed that he was carrying a hostage by the throat, and as an afterthought he swiped his mace behind the soldier, tripping him. The young soldier’s grip upon the governor’s throat released as he tripped and went stumbling backward, falling just outside the broken doorway as the glowing Tain quickly followed behind him. Not paying much attention even to his own handiwork, Hi-Jack continued to make his way along the wall, listening to the sounds of the few remaining people within the building, now even darker than before.
Captain Suto had continued to inch his way toward the door, trying to make his way outside before the young soldier got into the way. If this piece of trash would only not struggle so, I would already be there, he thought to himself. Just as he had started to inch his way near the outside wall, he saw the young soldier seem to toss Governor Gramm away and leap backward out of the building, with the glowing Tain on his heels.
Macy had been eagerly watching the loud battle and hadn’t noticed that her daughter Casey was missing until her eyes began to adjust to the darkness of the room. With her arms tightly wrapped around her son, she screamed, making a sound only a mother in true anguish could ever create.
Tossing all caution away, Hi-Jack ran toward the sound of Macy’s voice, praying that this was the right person and that he was in time. He stopped and kneeled before her and young Tony. “Are you Macy Dawn Johnson?” he asked, looking into her eyes.
Her only response was to scream, “My child, my child! Someone has taken my child!”
Suto continued to make his way toward the doorway, partly carrying young Casey with him as he thought, I will make it — I know I can — and revenge will be mine. A small smile creeped upon his face as he saw that Tain’s back was turned to him.
Realizing he didn’t have much time, Hi-Jack cut to the chase and slapped Macy firmly on her cheek, then repeated his question. “Are you Macy Dawn Johnson?” Macy, as if seeing Hi-Jack for the first time, just nodded her head, trying to figure out who this strangely dressed man was.
Just as she was about to voice her question, two voices could be heard just beyond the destroyed doorway. The first voice screamed in Japanese, “You worthless piece of trash — I should destroy you now!”
The second voice, while young, was rather loud as it screamed out, “Help me! Uncle, please, help me!”
Moments ago, Suto had just made his way to the destroyed doorway with young Casey in tow. She had continued to struggle the whole time, trying to escape, even though his grip had been like steel.
As fortune would have it, she had been able to shift her head, causing his hand over her mouth to move, allowing her to quickly bite his hand. As his hand flew from her mouth, she screamed the first things to cross her mind. Captain Suto, refusing to let her go, continued to cross through the doorway into the night.
Hearing young Casey’s plea, Hi-Jack quickly stood up and ran toward the fleeing form of Captain Suto, his only thoughts being concern for a young girl who he would never have known but for a quirk of fate, and that this could truly be his saving grace.
Exiting the building, Suto was quickly met by Tain, who was standing over the young soldier he had been fighting only moments ago. Shaking his head, Hiroshi Tain said to the captain, “As I told the young man over here, surrender, son — don’t make me have to hurt you.”
Hi-Jack made his way out of the building just in time to catch the last few words spoken, and he tried to quietly sneak up behind Suto and force him to release young Casey.
Tain picked that moment and began to slowly advance on Captain Suto, his face never showing that he had even seen Hi-Jack as he continued to speak. “Son, you know how this is going to end, so you could at least release the young girl so as to not harm her.”
Hi-Jack reached out to try to grab Captain Suto from behind, but it was as if the man had a third eye, as Suto quickly spun around, looked him in the eye, and tossed young Casey at him. Then, before either man could make another move, the captain leaped backward in an unexpected somersault, then turned and quickly ran into the night, toward the dock and the sounds of gunfire.
Casey, still in shock, hugged her savior until she was almost clawing at him. Hi-Jack watched Tain for a moment as the other man stood facing him. “Good job, son. I couldn’t have done better myself.” But it seemed as if Tain’s voice was becoming faint as he added, “This here is a second chance for you, son. Don’t blow it.” Slowly, the glow surrounding Tain disappeared, and the young man who had called himself by the name of Old Glory slipped to the ground, unconscious.
Hi-Jack reached into his coat with his free hand and grabbed his radio, speaking once into it, “Now, Jenkins. The time is now.” The sounds of the battle of San Francisco raging everywhere around him, Hi-Jack held onto young Casey Johnson, not daring to let go for anything.
Back at Senator Wellington’s mansion in Los Angeles, Hi-Jack sat in the parlor, staring long into the fire as he thought back on the last few days and the actions he had taken. He was still trying to figure out what had driven him, of all people, to play the hero. I’m glad I did what I did, but why did I even care? he thought. It’s not like this is my home. Hell, I’m just an old, worthless petty crook playing at something I’m not. Hi-Jack continued his lonely, dark thoughts, oblivious to someone entering the room.
Moments ago, Macy Johnson headed from the room that Tony and Casey were sharing at their uncle’s home. A tear slowly trickled down her face as she turned her thoughts to recent events for the first time. Even though I told the kids that their uncle would save them, I really didn’t believe that Jack would come charging in after us, she thought. Yet, if not for him and Jenkins, who knows what would have happened? And I also can’t forget the young man who, it seemed, had been used by a higher power to help save us. With those thoughts, the second smile in months came to her face.
Stopping only long enough to freshen up, she walked into the parlor over to the chair across from Jack’s, and sat down. For just a moment she scrutinized his face; he was her brother, she was sure of that much, but somehow he was different than he’d been when she last saw him a year ago. Though as for what that difference was, she couldn’t place her finger on it. “Jack, can we speak?” Macy said, looking squarely at his face.
Hi-Jack almost didn’t hear Macy speak, his mind lost in the past and in deeds attached to a life that seemed like a lifetime ago. “Huh, what?” he said. “Oh, yeah. Sorry, Macy. Didn’t hear you come in.”
“Its OK, Jack. It’s not like I gave you fair warning.” She gave him a small smile. “I just needed someone to talk to, is all. Been meaning to talk with you for over a year now, come to think of it. I’d come into possession of a few items I thought you’d like to see, but that was just before the Crisis, and then the invasion followed right after, and…” Macy’s voice broke as she began to sob greatly, tears pouring down her face, both from the stress she had experienced and from the loss of her husband William a year ago.
Hi-Jack looked at Macy and watched her for a few moments, not really knowing what to do. On Earth-One, he had been an only child, but the Jack Wellington of this Earth had a sister, as well as a niece and nephew; he idly wondered if his life would have turned out differently if a Macy Wellington had been born on his Earth as well. Of course, the Wellingtons of Earth-X also seemed to be a lot wealthier than the Wellingtons of Earth-One. If he’d grown up with a silver spoon in his mouth, perhaps he would never have joined the Royal Flush Gang in the first place.
Finally, he stood up, walked over to her, and, sitting upon the footrest, wrapped his arms around her tightly. “It’s going to be OK. Everything is going to be OK.” He kept holding her until she was able to compose herself once more.
Macy slowly raised her head back up, trying her best to place a smile across her face she spoke. “Jack, this is all so very hard with all that’s happened. I’ve lost so much already. If anything had happened to Tony or Casey — or you — I don’t know what I would have done. But thank God I don’t have to find that out, at least.” She smiled, even as tears still ran down her face.
At that moment, the phone down the hall rang; Hi-Jack’s first response was to answer it, but he changed his mind, not wanting to leave Macy alone at that moment. Finally, the phone went quiet as the butler answered it in another room.
Hi-Jack looked over his would-be sister from head to toe. “You said you had something to show me?” he asked, trying to change her train of thought.
She nodded her head, took a tissue, and blew her nose with it before she continued. “Yes, I’ve recently come to acquire two sets of keys and two books, one filled with names and phone numbers, while the second looks more like a diary. I’d only been able to read some of the diary before the invasion, and from what I was able to see, I believe you should know who these items used to belong to.”
At that moment, Victor Jenkins walked into the parlor. “Master Wellington, may I have a word with you, sir?” he said, a hint of disbelief added to the name.
Hi-Jack looked at Macy, then to Jenkins, and said, “Sure. Be right back, Macy.” He smiled at her as he and Jenkins walked out into the hallway. “OK, Jenkins, what is so important that you need to disturb a family reunion?”
Without raising his voice, Jenkins said bluntly, “I know who you are, sir.”
Hi-Jack’s face went ashen-white, and he opened his mouth to speak, yet no sound would come forth.
“The San Bernardino coroner’s office called,” Jenkins continued. “While examining one of the corpses, the chief coroner noticed an item that Master Wellington never went anywhere without — a class ring he had received while at UCLA. He looked it up and has identified the body.”
Hi-Jack felt as if he was about to pass out from the news as he felt his second chance at life slipping from his hands. Yet Jenkins continued to speak as if he hadn’t responded in any way.
“I did take the liberty of asking the coroner to come here and to bring the body and other items with him,” Jenkins added. “He will arrive in a few days. Tell me now, sir, how you plan to act. Shall I inform the grieving Mrs. Johnson that she also has no brother, or shall we take care of this case of… mistaken identity?”
Hi-Jack looked pleadingly at Victor Jenkins as he spoke the only words he seemed to be able to form. “Don’t tell her that,” he said, his voice choked up. “It would destroy her completely. I never planned for any of this; I just wanted a second chance.” At that point, as if he couldn’t seem to get enough air, he fainted dead away.